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Ballet San Jose Welcomes New Director

Stephanie Ziesel made her debut as the new executive director of Ballet San Jose last Friday evening at the Chamber Night of the Arts. More than 100 members of the Silicon Valley arts and business community gathered for dinner and mingling at Arcadia restaurant at the Marriott. The wine flowed freely at the party, sponsored by John Fry, with attendees dining on fresh shrimp, crab and elaborate desserts.

“It’s a dream come true, and I’m so excited to see what this company can do,” Ziesel said at the party. “We’re really poised to go to this next level. I just feel so lucky to be a part of it, and to be a head of it, because I have tons of ideas.

“I feel I have a real freedom to explore that, to be creative in an administrative way, which you don’t see very often in the arts because you don’t often have that freedom to be really entrepreneurial. So, I’m really looking forward to it.”

Ziesel will officially take on the position of Ballet San Jose’s executive director on May 25, where her number-one objective will be to make San Jose the home of a world-class ballet by raising funds and securing donors.

Previously employed as the Associate Director of Development at San Francisco Ballet, Ziesel knows a thing or two about bringing the bucks in. She was the primary force behind their successful $45 million endowment campaign and major gifts program.

John Fry, chairman of the ballet's board of governors and CEO of Fry's Electronics, praised Ziesel’s expertise in development and fundraising as “unparalleled.”

“Ballet San Jose, as well as the Silicon Valley community at large, will reap the benefits of her unique skill set, and we are delighted to welcome her,” Fry said.

Ziesel arrived fashionably late to the Friday night event. A swarm of well-wishers followed her around the entire evening.

“It’s really become a company passion to share the arts,” said Kathy Kolder, co-founder and executive vice president of Fry's Electronics, at the dinner.
“Ballet San Jose is such an amazing group of performers, and [creative director] Dennis Nahat is so incredible in the way he can bring people in and present that.

“We really feel we have one of the best ballets in the world. We’d like to encourage all the other companies to really consider giving to the arts as one of their charities.”

Many Silicon Valley community, arts and business leaders attended the event, including Pat Dando, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce; Michael E. Fox Jr., CEO of Goodwill Industries, Mac Tully, publisher of the San Jose Mercury News; Elizabeth Lewis, an Atherton Town Council Member, Mark Crowley, President and CEO for SolFocus, Inc., David Neale and Pat Saucedo.

Noted ballet staff and longtime supporters that attended the dinner included Ballet San Jose founding patrons Karen and Walter Loewenstern, Sharon and Reid Gustafson, San Jose Ballet School Director Lise la Cour, and lighting director Kenneth Keith.

“The common thread through the whole thing, the whole 25 years, is really Dennis Nahat, and his style,” said Karen Lowenstern. “We’ve had changes as far as the leadership and we’re bringing in newer, next generation leaders. Those of us who have been involved this for 25 years are mentoring these new people.”

Once show time came around, the crowd migrated across the street to the Center of the Performing Arts where “Song and Dance,” the last production of Ballet San Jose’s 2008-2009 season, was playing.

“I am so excited to be part of art forum that is so dynamic and that is growing,” said Ziesel. “In this environment that we’re in today, it’s great to be involved in something that is not shrinking, but expanding, and improving and reaching higher instead of stagnating or contracting.”